I love turkeys. I love their beautiful bronze, barred feathers and wobbly wattles. I love their succulent meat with extra crispy skin, seasoned with a little garlic pepper and salt.  But apparently not everyone shares my view.

It seems the big birds have been making a nuisance of themselves in certain neighborhoods. And I might change my view too, if I was suddenly challenged by one these large creatures in a back alley.

Yet with just a little research, as usual, I've learned the reasons for the sometimes aggressive behavior behind the birds. And once again, it has to do with how humans interact with and react to them.

The wild turkey population in Minnesota was restored starting in the 70's with a group of birds from Missouri, relocated to the southeastern corner of the state. In what is considered a success, wild turkeys now number about 70,000. These birds forage for insects and seeds in the daytime and roost in trees overnight. They nest on the ground and raise the brood in families until their flight feathers come in.

Unlike the noisy lovemaking of the Canada geese, the turkey courtship rituals are quiet and dignified. They simply approach the hens and unfurl those stately feathers, impressing the girls with their great big display.

It is this size and visibility that often accounts for them being blamed for crop damage actually committed by squirrels, deer and rascally raccoons. In fact, they may help farmers by cleaning up waste grain and eating insects.

But it's when the turkeys and urban dwellers encounter each other that problems occur. This happens especially in winter when the smaller flocks gather together forming what is called a congregation; with the goal of surviving cold temps and dwindling food supplies. Recently, a congregation of turkeys caused a conflagration in Shoreview that landed them on the 6 o'clock news, with accusations of bad behavior.

Wild turkeys lose their wildness when they get used to humans. When they get too comfortable, they get cranky and they get greedy. This happens two ways. People pen-rear turkeys and then let them loose. Or people feed them either directly or indirectly with bird feeders meant for smaller birds.

When a turkey makes the news in other ways, he's filmed standing in the road way or otherwise attracting first curious and then unwanted attraction. It's usually the jakes, the young males, the equivalent of turkey teenage boys. And as the mother of one of that species, I'm nodding my head. They need to stay busy and occupied with constructive activities. In the case of the young turkey, that's with living off the land and avoiding hunters, not eating cracked corn from a backyard trough.

You gotta love the Minnesota DNR advice for dealing with these brazen bullies. In bold print they proclaim, Don't Let Turkeys Intimidate You.  And that's not all, they advise you just like the print, to "go bold". Get out the broom, bring on the dogs. Just like the family canine there is a pecking order and people belong on top. It makes sense that to keep turkeys wild some healthy fear goes a long way in maintaining good turkey/human relations.

And then like these birds, they will retreat just out of reach of my camera lens.





Older Post

Finding Our Inner Architect

Newer Post

Happy Birthday Earth Day!